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Flying Solo

 

 

 

If you’ve been out in public during the past ten years you may have noticed that there are few “adult” domains dotting our landscape. I don’t refer to the “Live” “Nude” Times Square of decades past. I refer instead to any and everywhere. The stroller set has infiltrated your local coffee shop and bar (hey after a long day playing in a sanitized million dollar soft-edged heat-proof playground, you’d need a stiff drink too.) Restaurants whose white tablecloths and staggering bills once signaled and adult oasis, now have nuggets of processed foods on the menu (because after all small children do enjoy fine dining they just don’t enjoy actual food.) No doubt much of the free-range high pitched squealing you experience (in restaurants, bars or Holocaust memorial museums) is mostly due to a parent not wanting to deny themselves anything of their pre-parenting life. It would seem that some people skipped the “What to EXPECT when you’re expecting” chapter. Life should continue unaltered save for many more accessories.

But what of the scenario in which the presence of one’s own child ruins the experience of the parent. Clearly ruining other people’s experience is a great motivator, but what if your own child negates your pleasure. No, we’re not venturing into “family bed” territory. Instead we’re looking at high-end travel. Not private plane, private island, private ecosystem travel. Just ordinary 5-star travel. Why would a person choose to fly first-class with a child younger than school age? If we assume both are healthy and that the child(ren) are not actual owners of the airline; what in the world would compel an adult to fly first-class with a small, squealing, squirming child? It can’t be the free food, children don’t seem to eat real food. (Oh for the love of all decency, don’t tell me they now serve nuggets in first-class!) It’s almost certainly not the free booze, although it could be that warm wet towel. The parent’s experience could not be improved by being in first class. Unless the flight attendants actually relieve the parent of the child, how is the parent enjoying the benefits of first-class? Is it merely the mustache twirling delight in having ruined everyone else’s first-class experience? Doubtful.

Once the aircraft has taxied to the gate and the fasten seat belt sign has been turned off, where are the little tykes staying? Are they off to visit relatives or perhaps moving into their new home? No, they’re off to the 5-star hotel/resort with zero child-centric amenities. Their parents will play running, screaming games of hide and seek in the plush penthouse level hallway at 10:30 PM. These adults will encourage the practicing of door slamming (“good boy!”) throughout the early morning hours. And we are left wondering why. Why would anyone choose to spend so much money to not enjoy the quiet, the plushness, the afternoon tea, the romance and the restorative nature of a very posh hotel? Why in an area dotted with chain hotels and motels catering to children and their nugget ways would anyone think that children should be in a place created for the pleasure of adults? Is it merely an extension of the ‘not being denied’ anything of one’s pre-parenting days? Does it matter not a whit that you spent the money and didn’t actually have the experience for which you paid? Is it an insistence of not lowering one’s standards just because one has decided to parent? (Note: Entitlement isn’t really a standard; it’s more of a pervasive and toxic behavior.) Could it be something even slightly more disturbing? Could it be that the child/infant is an adult security blanket? The world and/or social gatherings are far less daunting when you can dress up a little person and spend the day deflecting. That motivation would certainly explain the appearance of children/babies at funerals and weddings. “Pay no attention to the adult behind the baby!” It’s enough to make a person miss the security blankets that were smoking and sedatives.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2012 in Childhood, Travel

 

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I Got You Babe

Women have been having babies on their own since the dawn of time.  (Having them, not making them.)  It’s not really anybody’s business, least of all mine.  But that would never stand in the way of me wondering why there’s been such a surge in the incidents lately.  I wondered for awhile if celebrity single motherhood had seeped into mainstream culture.  I also wondered if science had spawned the later-in-life-oh-I-should-probably-get-one-of-those upswing.  But both of those trends speak to a kind of intent on the part of the woman that does not necessarily jive with the recent statistics.

Most of the babies had outside of marriage are being born to women under 30 without a college degree.  About 40% of the babies in this country are born to single women.  That’s a lot of babies.  The popular theory is that marriage is seen as a luxury item, a step up if you will.  If the baby’s father is not in a position to be a solid marriage partner, the woman parents alone.  Logical on the face of it, no?

But what does it mean to be having sex with a man (at least once) who you find unsuitable?  One young woman refers to having to buy her boyfriend’s cigarettes for him, such is the degree of his uselessness.  It would be one thing if this smoking man had been a one time indiscretion, but this is a man she sees fit to seriously date.  Why?  The explanations could be plentiful and varied, but none leave me confident as to her future.  Now we add to the mix a baby, an expensive all-consuming baby.  Born to a mother who is not formally educated and may not have marketable job skills.  You see where this is going, no?

Marriage, like it or not, provides protection, both for the spouses and the children.  While states in our nation are waging a fight for equal marriage, there are locations in which heterosexuals have lost interest in the institution. How do we explain a vocal percentage of the gay and lesbian community rallying for something a large swath of the working class has eschewed?  And why are the single parent births so high within the working class?

There is no data to suggest (or dispute) that these women under 30 are living with their baby’s father in a lifelong committed relationships.  One assumes that these women are raising their child alone.  If marriage occurs at some time in the future, it won’t be viewed as a path to anything (such as parenthood) but as an end point.  Generations ago, middle class women went off to college in hopes of obtaining an M.R.S., and working class women hoped for a ring to wear at their high school graduation.  Getting married was the mark of adulthood (for men and women) of all classes.  Something has happened and now having a baby is that mark.  A generation raised on instant gratification can’t be the reason.  It’s far more fun to be a bride than to be a young single mother.  Economics doesn’t explain much either, as it is far more expensive for a mother and father to live separately than together.  Certainly it’s not a morality issue, as people from all classes dabble in an around the edges of their own morality.  It couldn’t be a perceived lack of educational opportunities, as there never have been so many remote ways to obtain a degree.

Turning this issue around and around, I am still left pondering the woman in a relationship with a man who does not have the wherewithal to purchase his own cigarettes.  Somewhere in there lies the answer.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2012 in Cultural Critique

 

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Demons Are Prowling Everywhere*

Did you know you can childproof every single electrical outlet in your home for just $20 each?  And a $30 bracket will harness that lightweight (unsightly) lethal flat screen television?  There are also electric cord shorteners, doorknob covers, toilet seat locks and childproof window treatments.  Remember when everyone was up in arms over the (now quaint) childproofing of pill bottles?

It seems that while I was quietly mastering the push down twist of my vitamin bottle, the world has become a perilous, Raiders of the Lost Ark place for small children.  Evidently even baby monitors are lethal.  An aside; I never really understood the baby monitor.  How big is someone’s home that they can’t hear the ear piercing cry of a child?   Or are they used to quell paranoia?  What is that baby saying about you while it feigns a nap, huh?  While we’re on the subject of my limited understandings; what’s with the toilet seat lock?  Is it a drowning concern?  A flushing of valuable items concern?  I am in need of enlightenment.

The advent of those little plastic outlet covers have no doubt saved many little ones from electrocution.  (Reportedly, they are too difficult for today’s parent to use and hence the $20 per outlet solution.)  Kitchens and medicine cabinets will always demand rethinking.  Unless your little one has rappelling gear, moving everything on up should solve any problems.  When my brother was at his most dangerous and destructible, cleaning solutions went into the upper cabinets and foods went into the lower.  It went well until we awoke to find him happily playing in a pile of grains on the kitchen floor.  That night, hook and eye locks were installed on the kitchen doors.  Problem solved.

Like exposure to dirt and germs, children need minor controlled exposure to cause and effect.  A bump on the head, scraped knee, burned finger tip are the ways we learn our (and the world’s) limitations.  Might I suggest that parents who feel they are living in a house of horrors, introduce themselves to a playpen.

Wait for it.  There it is.  “THERE IS NO PRICE ON SAFETY!”  Look, I am safety girl.  I took Robin’s admonition to Batman to; “buckle up for safety” quite seriously.  But I also am a disciple of the principles of cost/benefit ratios.  Confiscating my room service pots of jam are not keeping the passengers on my commuter flight any safer.  That confiscation served to entertain a bored TSA elder in a one-horse town.  Turning one’s own home into Fort Knox also contributes to a false sense of security.  But even more detrimental is how it initiates an imbalance into the home.  (Brace yourself, there’s gonna be outrage)  Children don’t pay the rent/mortgage, adults do.  It is the adults’ home and the children live there.  If you’re still reading, why not set the tone when the little one first arrives?  The baby can be contained (infant seat, playpen) both for his/her safety and your sanity.  The world (particularly the corporate world) loves to make new parents feel insecure.  The unsolicited advice starts pouring in at almost the moment of conception.  May I please (perhaps be the first) to tell you that you are doing everything right.  People have been surviving childhood for a very long time.  Parenting is not a spectator sport.  Relax, go snuggle with your little one in your home filled with sharp edges, it will all be fine.

*Stephen Sondheim – Sweeney Todd (1979)

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2011 in Childhood

 

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The Boobie Tube

More than half of American babies watch television for about two hours a day.  One third of babies have televisions in their bedrooms.  Babies.  Those under two years of age.  What little I know of human development, I’m guessing they are not using the remote.  This suggests that an adult is turning on the television for the baby.  I have so many questions I hardly know where to start.

I think I understand the concept of putting a baby down in front of a television.  It has to do with giving the adult a reprieve, yes?  May I suggest a moratorium on the demonization of the playpen.  You remember the playpen?  It is a box filled with toys, books, and cuddly things that kept tykes safe.  It was how we controlled their environment, versus gating and locking our environment.  Babies could happily entertain themselves while floors got cleaned or adults took showers.  Now, if my presumption is accurate, that television is being used in lieu of a playpen, I have to ask; what show is being watched?  Does it matter?  Is it just the sound that is pacifying the babe?  If so, how about music and a busybox?  Forget the quality of television for a moment.  Can anything be gained, developmentally, from staring at a screen?  (That is not a rhetorical question.)

The nursery television leaves me a bit more confused.  What in the world is going on there?  Is the baby being left alone with the television on?  To what end?

Before you think I am anti-media or (gasp) anti-television, let me assure you I am most certainly not.  At 14, I ecstatically received a hulking 35 inch wood-framed black and white television set.  Painted yellow.  That only got channel 7, which was fine as this was during ABC’s heyday.  For my 16th birthday my wishes were granted with my very own portable television, which received all seven channels!  I brought it with me to college.  I love t.v.  It’s one of my best friends.

What I don’t love is blanket social inequities.  According to the Kaiser Foundation, in families with incomes under $30,000, 64% of children younger than 8 had televisions in their rooms.  In families with incomes above $75,000. the number drops to 20%.  I doubt 100% of the blame shouldn’t be placed upon the importing of cheap electronic goods.  It certainly doesn’t help that a television is no longer a luxury item.  But perhaps something larger is at play.  Even back when televisions were far too dear for the middle-class, Muffy and Biff were not squired away in their nursery watching television.

While I shy from being an alarmist, I truly suspect that there is something a tad sinister in play.  “Progress” has brought us inexpensive food-like substitutes, flavored “drink” and access to electronic noise.  There is a school of thought that maintains that the plethora of liquor stores, cigarette ads and cheap goods in low-income neighborhoods is part of a scheme to quell the underclass.  Television is a very effective pacifier.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in Childhood, Media/Marketing

 

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